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NOI Traditions
Traditional children’s books for young Black children of a religious nature focus predominantly on the Christian Faith teaching children about the stories in the Bible and the lives of the prophets. Recently, however, along comes a children’s book written for Britain’s Black Muslim population entitled ‘How To Do Ablution With Hakeemah’ featuring a beautiful character by the name of Hakeemah who, is of Nigeria origin and who invites her friends to her home and teaches them one of the principles of the Muslim faith.
Ablution which, is also called ‘wudu’, means ‘washing before prayer’ and represents one of the tenets of the Muslim Faith every Muslim out of the 1.5 billion on the earth perform, each time, before they pray. On a US site selling this beautifully illustrated children’s book it reads: This beautiful picturesque book will teach children how to make wudu [Ablution]. However, it goes beyond just a ritual before prayer, to show the meaning behind each step. Hakeemah who, lives with her family in the United Kingdom, invites over her friends who show interest in their culture and faith”.
What really struck me about this children’s book is that not only is this book a first for breaking down the Muslim ritual of Ablution which so many Muslims practice and have not got the faintest idea of what the ritual means but, here we have a book for Muslim children featuring a strong Black female character. Taking a snapshot of books on the Muslim way of life, very few of the books feature Black characters given us a hint of the similarity of the early absence of Black characters in children’s books of any genre here in the UK, except that the books were demeaning and unrepresentative of Black culture and experience.
In addition to the rarity of a children’s book about an Islamic principle featuring a Black character, the book represents Black Muslims in the UK, where traditionally pictures and news about Muslims are represented by Asians from Pakistan and India, totally ignoring the fact that the UK Muslim population consists of Muslims from all the Continents and who are not all one homogenous unit. A young girl, Iman read the book and said: I thought the book was very good because it tells me a bit about the Muslim religion in a child-friendly way, so it is fun to read! I also liked the pictures because they helped me to understand the story”.
The book opens up with Hakeemah kneeling down on a rug in what appears to be a countryside garden at the side of a very sumptuous house. Now I’m not aware of any of my friends living in such plush surroundings outside of London – that’s what the author says is a reality – but I have to admit, I wouldn’t mind exchanging Hakeemah and her family’s home for mine. I loved the girls’ dresses – sorry, forgot to tell you – Hakeemah has three young girlfriends and by the standards of the clothing these girls are wearing, I would recommend the designer to some of the Fashion Houses designing clothes for our young girls and women. Hakeemah also has a brother by the name of Karim and a twin brother and sister, Fareed and Aqueelah. I’m looking forward to the next series to meet them.
Back to this book... the story begins with Hakeemah’s friends Natasha, Khadijah and Rehana visiting her at home and is greeted at the front door by her. We then get introduced to Hakeemah’s brother, Karim who, according to Rehana in the story dialogue tells us ‘he’s so intelligent’ with the twist of a smile; somewhat suggesting that she has a crush on him. Hmmmm! Now, in the grand setting of the hallway, Karim standing on the marble stairs greets Hakeemah’s friends and then the story begins.
Not knowing anything about the Muslim way of life, this book is captivating and, without sticking to orthodoxy, draws the reader into what Ablution is about as Hakeemah and Khadijah, reading and demonstrating, show and teach us its meaning. Some books on religion focus on straightforward rote learning and are like lifeless statues but, for me, this book serves as an excellent tool to teach my children what Muslims do before they pray and in some way it serves as an example to help us look behind the traditional practices and rituals so that we get a deeper meaning of the hidden reality of our actions as Believers.

Olusola O. Muhammad
Author & Publisher

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